Testing in the studio with Lewis

no idea where the blue came from, but I love it…just a film happy accident

When you work as a studio assistant, one of the perks of the job is that you get to use the studios to test.

The assistant’s privileges on the matter varies from studios to studios, each one has a different policy: same charge very little, just to cover expenses, or, even better, they don’t charge at all, others charge a reduced rate for assistants, while the right to use the space is granted depending if the assistant works full time or freelance, if he/she has worked at the studio for a long period and/or if he/she is a key holder.

I feel incredibly privileged to be able to use the amazing studios and equipment that we have at Sunbeam and I really should make the most of it while I can, so I decided to get over my preference for locations and daylight and try to test a bit more with the studios space and artificial lighting (both flash and continous).

I have already written about a rather successful (at least for my standards) test that I did with a couple of twins in studio 1, our biggest space, here and this time I want to write about a semi disastrous test that I did in studio 3.

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Taking Pictures of Strangers

Vincent Marino (photographed for 1883 magazine)

I’ve always been fascinated by people and people watching has been a favourite pastime of mine since I can remember.
On the other hand, I’m a tad socially awkward and I find quite hard to approach people who I don’t know.
Recently I’ve finally (partly) overcome my awkwardness in approaching strangers and I’ve started asking more and more people  on the street if I can take their picture.

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Beauty retouching

I apologise for the lack of updates, I’ve been a bit busy and generally to lazy to write here.
Now I’m bedridden because of a nasty flu and my voice has disappeared, so I finally have some time to write.

I’m still working in the studios, but I’m trying to get some extra work as a freelance assistant and retoucher.

One of my early attempts at using Photoshop (shame on me)

Retouching was a major part of my early work and I got interested in photography through Photoshop, while normally is the other way around 🙂

When I was 18, a friend introduced me to Photoshop and I fell in love and I became totally obsessed, learning to use it by trials and errors (I didn’t know about online tutorials and the manuals looked very boring)

I was into cheesy digital art (like the example of the left) and I became increasingly frustrated with the quality of stock photos that I could find on the internet, so I started taking my own.

I kept retouching to some extent all of my photography work, especially because I didn’t have a clue at the beginning and the pictures were generally awful to look at, but I’ve gradually moved away from digital photography and over-retouching and I became interested in film photography and “raw” pictures.

Lately I’ve got back into retouching and looking at my early work I’ve realised how much I’ve progressed in these years.

At the moment I’m studying different techniques for beauty retouching, especially how to get a flawless skin without losing the texture and spending too much time on it.

horrible blurred effect in one of my first pictures

When I was starting out I used to blur (shock horror) the skin to create a soft effect that nowadays looks totally inappropriate (picture on the left)

Finally I discovered about the magic properties of the healing brush and I started smoothing everyone skin to the max, making them look like plastic Barbie dolls (example below).

There are still tons of people who believe that this is a good way of retouching skin, but if you look at high end magazines you will notice that the models have perfect skins WITH some sort of recognisable human texture, they look flawless but not plasticy.

I’ve been researching a lot to find out how to achieve this result and I think that I’m getting there.

Below is my latest retouching work, where the model already had a good skin, but there where still some imperfections to correct.

It was just after a shooting and the hair was messy, the make up a bit smudged and the model generally tired.

In this 100% crop below you can see how I worked on the skin, still retaining some texture (click on the picture to see it full size)

Finally I’ve played a bit with colours and saturation to create a black and white version and a vintage one.

To achieve this effect I recommend to have a look at these resources:

Model Mayhem’s forum thread about the applications of separation of spatial frequency data for micro contrast and skin retouching

Dodge and burn tutorial: part 1 & part 2

Quick and easy (but less accurate) skin smoothing tutorial

Orschel-Read after show party at Madame Jojo’s

Since I’ve assisted during the shooting for the new Orschel-Read collection lookbook, I’ve got the opportunity to attend the after show party and it has been so much fun!

me (on the right) and a couple of friends at the party - picture by Fukaya Wataru

The venue was Madame Jojo’s, a fantastic club in Soho, that hosts Tranny Shack, a cabaret night that is described on the website as “one of London’s most popular avante-garde cabaret club nights. Every Wednesday this award-winning party welcomes fabulous drag queens, gender illusionists, dressed-up Klub Kids, transexuals, faces-about-town, and a host of other wild creatures channelling glamorous polysexuality!

I had never been to a drag queen club before and I didn’t know what I was missing out!

The party was wild and the shows totally amazed me.

I wish I could do this

she sang a song from Hedwig and the angry inch and she blew everybody away

velvia 50 crossprocessed in c41 chemicals - the scans are awful, but I like these two pictures

I also got some old film developed and found more behind the scenes pictures from the shooting that I totally forgot about

17 years old model

standing in to test the lights

Assisting

studio waste - tons of flowers trashed after a shooting

Since I’ve graduated and moved to London, I’ve been looking for jobs, trying to break into the photography industry and it’s not been easy at all.

While studying I had no idea of the amount of technical knowledge needed to be a professional freelance assistant in London!

My university was a lovely place to experiment and learn about fine art/documentary photography, but, being based in the North East of England, I was so far away from London, where apparently everything of a certain relevance happens, that when I came here I didn’t have a clue about it works in the “professional world”.

I assisted some photographers back in Italy and it was completely different. I worked with Angelo Cricchi, a photographer that I deeply admire, but he works mainly on film and with continuos lighting, so it was not so challenging to assist him while still at uni.

I knew that I needed to work as an assistant to gain first hand experience on professional/commercial photography.

At first I tried to propose myself as a freelance assistant to a huge number of high end photographers and I landed a couple of jobs before realising that I was missing too much technical knowledge to work in that position.

Set

I was second assistant on an Italian beauty editorial shoot with Phil Poynter and I loved it, but I was also glad to be only the second assistant because if I was first I think that I would have messed up the whole thing!

For my second job I was the first assistant of another photographer and I totally screwed it up!

At that point I’ve being kindly suggested to try my luck as a studio assistant first to learn about all the equipment and get enough experience and contacts to become a photographer’s assistant.

I didn’t even know of the existence of the studio assistant job, but thanks to some chats with photographers and assistants I got the contacts of some of the main studios in London.

I started (and I’m still) working shifts at Big Sky and Sunbeam Studios and I booked an intensive assistant one day course at Direct Lighting, the rental company that supplies equipment to most of the studios and photographers in London.

Direct Lighting assisting course

It may seem stupid to have to do a course just to be an assistant, but I was puzzled by the strange names of some of the things used on shootings (big bens, jumpers, turtles, spiders…how am I supposed to know what a turtle is when someone asks me for one?!?) and it was incredibly useful to be able to have everything explained, including complicated lighting devices like the Briese.

I then felt confident enough to start to “harass” photographers again and I worked a couple of times with an amazing artist who doesn’t normally use assistants, Peter Ashworth.

I truly enjoyed working with Peter, he is so good with lighting and I learned a lot from him. He is also a respected portrait photographer and it was fascinating to see him working with a famous musician, putting him totally at his ease and directing him at his best to get killer images.

The last job I did for him was assisting (even if I’ve been a bit mischievous and I took some pictures inbetween, sorry Peter!) while he was shooting the new collection of Orschel-Read.

Stefan Orschel-Read is an incredible designer and, even if I’m not that into fashion, I was stunned by his work, it’s breathtaking.

Stefan Orschel-Read

Heather B did hair and make up and here there are some behind the scenes pictures.

the whole crew, except Stefan who took the picture

Going through my archive

I’m still job hunting, I send lots of emails everyday and it really annoys me when people don’t get back to me.

I used to be very bad at replying to messages on facebook, emails and text messages, but after I’ve realised how annoying it can be for the other person to wait a reply forever, I’ve decided to be better.

Another thing that I used to be awful at is sending free pictures to the people who posed for me or worked with me on not commercial projects, so I’m trying to go through my archive and send pictures to all these people now, hoping that they are not too mad at me and that karma will be happy 🙂

Today I’ve edited and sent a selection of pictures from a project that I did last summer, documenting the activities of volunteers in a pet sanctuary in the North of Italy called Porcikomodi.

This is my favourite picture of the lot, so I thought I could share it with you (if anyone read this blog) here.

Piercarlo cleaning up the pigs' shelter

On a completely different note, I also edited some fashion pics from a test shooting that I did around Easter with Heather Donaldson, a stylist from Leeds, so I put one of them as well, just for the stark contrast with the pig one 🙂

Model: Lewis Jamison, MUA: Irram Nash, Stylists: Heather Donaldson and Irram Nash